American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
In Dexter Gordon's voice in "Round Midnight," there is a quality that at first sounds like a great weariness. As I listened more carefully, however, I realized that there were other notes present.
Here is a man (I speak of the character, not the actor) who has gone too far and seen too much, and who knows that in one way or another his death is near. Yet he is not impatient with those who still have long to live; he takes what remains of his precious time to speak carefully with them. And when he speaks of the world around him, it is with a quiet amazement that he is still there to see it.
I mention Gordon's voice because it plays the same notes as the music in this film. As with all great musicians, the notes that come from within are the same as the feelings from within. Musicians who use breath to play their instruments - those who play the various horns - arrive sooner or later at a point where they play and speak in the same voice. Gordon makes it easy to hear that; the music that comes from his saxophone is sad and tender, and so are his words.
In "Round Midnight," he plays Dale Turner, an American jazzman who goes to Paris in 1959 to play at a club called the Blue Note. Turner is about 60, an alcoholic and drug user whose pattern has been to pull things together for a while and then let them slide. Each slide is closer to death.